Tennessee bill would allow people to carry guns on college campuses

Restrictions are in place for carrying guns on campuses and parks, but those could be lifted.
Restrictions are in place for carrying guns on campuses and parks, but those could be lifted
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 8:14 PM CST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A Tennessee lawmaker wanted some college students to be allowed to carry guns on campus, and argued that students needed to be able to defend themselves. But, not all college students agree.

“We don’t feel safe in our classrooms,” said Hannah McNally, Vice President of UT Knoxville College Democrats.

Right now, there are restrictions for carrying weapons and guns on college campuses, and parks. If passed, it would get rid of those restrictions.

“Trained professionals, like police officers, will have guns on college campuses,” Jadyn Turner said, a student volunteer for Everytown For Gun Safety and a student at Lincoln Memorial University. “But, it shouldn’t be something that should be put in the hands of the students.”

Most colleges have firearm policies. The University of Tennessee does allow full-time employees to carry a concealed handgun in some places, as long as they have a permit. The university does not allow students or visitors to carry a gun. However, that may not be the case at every school.

“If the college is owned by a government entity, then the argument could be made that, once they turn 18, the government can’t restrict their ability to carry, even on a college campus,” Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association John Harris said.

Harris pointed to a state supreme court decision from 2022 that did not designate sensitive places, but hasn’t said yet whether college campuses fall into that category.

McNally believed policing gun safety on campus would be a lot harder.

“You can get away with anything,” she said. “You can bring anything onto campus if you wanted to. I don’t say that as an encouragement. But if someone wanted to, they absolutely could.”

Senator Joey Hensley introduced the bill. He hoped it will help people protect themselves on college campuses. But McNally thinks it would have the opposite effect.

Harris said courts ruled that a lot of the debates around these topics are irrelevant because of the Second Amendment. He thinks the only way to change some of these laws, is by changing or repealing the Second Amendment, which he doesn’t see happening.